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Taiwan’s Foxconn, TSMC confirm $350 million COVID-19 vaccine deal



July 12, 2021

By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s Foxconn and TSMC said on Monday they had reached deals to buy 10 million doses of Germany’s BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine, putting the total cost of the highly politicised deal at around $350 million.

Taiwan’s government has tried for months to buy the vaccine directly from BioNTech and has blamed China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, for nixing an agreement the two sides were due to sign earlier this year. China denies the accusations.

Last month, facing public pressure about the slow pace of Taiwan’s inoculation programme, the government agreed to allow Foxconn’s founder Terry Gou, as well as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), to negotiate on its behalf for the vaccines.

BioNTech’s Chinese sales agent Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd said on Sunday that an agreement had been signed, though no details of a delivery timeframe have been revealed yet.

Gou wrote on his Facebook page that he was “gratified” the deal had been completed, which will see Foxconn and TSMC each buy 5 million doses, to be donated to the government for distribution.

“But we can’t relax, because we will continue to work hard to push for the delivery time and quantity,” he said, adding the vaccines will come directly from Germany.

“However, this batch of vaccines delivered directly from the German factory I believe will help Taiwanese society to increase confidence and offer respite in the face of the epidemic.”

TSMC and Foxconn are major Apple Inc suppliers.

Taiwan’s government said it would comment later on Monday.

Gou said Beijing did not interfere in the talks.

“During the negotiation period after my donation was proposed, there was no guidance or interference from the Beijing authorities in the mainland on the vaccine procurement process.”

A person familiar with the negotiations said the first batch of vaccine is expected in September at the earliest, but it was not immediately clear how many doses could be delivered.

The German firm has yet to comment, and Fosun deleted an earlier statement from its WeChat account citing BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin as saying the company was “very grateful” to be able to supply the vaccine to Taiwan.

Fosun did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why those comments were removed.

The BioNTech vaccine drama has transfixed Taiwan and dominated headlines. A major Taiwanese Buddhist group, the Tzu Chi Foundation, is also trying to buy the shots.

Taiwan has millions of vaccines on order, mainly from AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc, while the United States and Japan have together donated almost five million doses to the island to help speed up vaccinations.

The person familiar with the talks said the involvement of TSMC and the unconditional U.S. and Japanese vaccine donations had created a global environment that was favourable to Taiwan and made it hard for China to obstruct the deal.

Around one-tenth of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-shot regimen, though Taiwan’s own relatively small domestic coronavirus outbreak is now largely under control.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Kim Coghill)

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